As for dissents of the Mid-South states, Stallman said the trio has made use of “a specific, formal, so-called dissent process that states can engage in if they disagree with a policy passed by our delegates. It’s a sort of safety valve that’s served our organization well over the years.”

None of the three states, claimed Stallman “has an indication of what they’re willing to support. At this point, they just don’t like the policy passed by our delegates. The other 47 states and Puerto Rico have not dissented from our policy. Therefore, I think we have pretty good organizational support for where we are.”

Jeffrey Hall, who deals with national affairs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, says state Farm Bureau offices “are independent, although we’re members of the American Farm Bureau Federation. After the (January) AFBF convention in Hawaii, there was a formal process to go through (to dissent). All three states did follow that process – or, are in the middle of that process – of explaining the reasoning behind not following the (adopted) policy.”

Having sent in a letter of dissent, Arkansas is in the middle of that process as is Louisiana. Mississippi, says Hall, has concluded the process. The final step will be when Stallman addresses the Farm Bureau board of directors in each state. The Arkansas meeting is set for April 25.

The main reason for the dissent?

“The problem that the three states have in common is we’re heavy in rice and cotton,” says Hall. “Also, we all have a lot of irrigated acreage. We have different issues with irrigated corn than the Midwest, which doesn’t irrigate (like the Mid-South does).

“The common thread for the three states was the ‘catastrophic deep loss’ proposal that AFBF has been talking about, the two policies passed at the convention (concerning that proposed) safety net program. We’ve run the numbers with University of Arkansas economists and it won’t provide the kind of safety net that our farmers feel they need to stay in business.

“It’s tough to write a farm bill during a time of high prices. We write them for the difficult times. But we must create a program that protects farmers during those difficult times. We don’t feel that the ‘catastrophic deep loss’ program adequately does that.”

While he doesn’t speak for sister organizations in Louisiana and Mississippi, Hall believes all are “together about the current marketing loan program. Arkansas would like to see that with increased loan rates to market values. That’s one thing I think (all three states) agree with. Also, that’s in the AFBF policy that we agree with – we didn’t dissent from that. That’s something we can all work towards.”

While the Mid-South states dissented from the catastrophic deep loss program, “we also question a one-size-fits-all commodity safety net program,” says Hall. “We don’t think a one-size-fits-all approach works.

“There are regional differences in the way (the Mid-South) grows crops compared to other regions in the country. And there are commodity differences, as well. Take rice, for instance, where Arkansas is Number One in production. We feel these safety net programs must take into consideration regional and commodity differences.”